As prosecutors prepared to finish their case Friday, the judge in former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s trial for bank fraud and tax evasion called an extended recess without explanation.
U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis lll exited the courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, after meeting for more than 20 minutes with attorneys from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and Manafort’s defense lawyers, reported the Associated Press.
The trial resumed without explanation at 2:22 p.m Eastern Time.
The development comes on the heels of a warning by President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that Mueller’s probe is about to “blow up” and a tweet Thursday by Trump indicating revelations are coming, advising, “Stay tuned!”
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the millions of dollars he made through political work in Ukraine long before the 2016 presidential election.
The Mueller team filed a motion Friday morning accusing the judge of unfairly criticizing them in court, contending his recent comments could “confuse and mislead the jury,” Fox News reported.
Meanwhile, a notorious former prostitution-ring manager, also known as the “Manhattan Madam,” Kristin Davis, was expected to testify Friday, Politico reported. It’s unclear why Davis is testifying, but Politico said she is close with Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political adviser.
Politico commented that she’s the latest example of Mueller’s Russia probe bringing in “a strange and colorful cast of characters, from a Russian pop singer to a porn star to a convicted pedophile with murky foreign ties.”
CNBC has reported Mueller is looking into Stone’s ties to former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates, who struck a plea deal with Mueller in February, agreeing to fully cooperate.
On Friday, CNBC reported an aide to Stone, Andrew Miller, has been held in contempt for defying an order to testify in Mueller’s Russia probe.
Miller lost a lawsuit earlier this month challenging Mueller’s subpoena requiring him to appear before a grand jury. Miller’s lawyer, Paul Kamenar, told CNBC his client refused to comply with the subpoena “in order to be held in contempt and appeal the judge’s underlying decision” rejecting his lawsuit.
Miller’s attorneys told reporters Friday they are intentionally challenging the legitimacy of the Russia investigation and Mueller’s appointment.
NBC News reported the case is now headed to the Court of Appeals, and they hope it will reach the Supreme Court.
More to come
In a Washington Post op-ed, former U.S. attorney and current constitutional law professor at the University of California at San Diego Harry Litman asserted it’s “time to subpoena the president” to be interviewed in Mueller’s probe.
“Mueller has been extraordinarily deferential and patient while Trump and his representatives engaged in their scarcely credible gamesmanship,” he wrote.
Litman dismisses the representations of Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the president is eager to submit to an interview under oath, contending “it has become increasingly apparent that neither Trump nor anyone in his orbit has any interest in his answering Mueller’s questions.”
“In a word, they are playing Mueller, and in the process, playing the country,” Litman wrote.
“This is an illegally brought Rigged Witch Hunt run by people who are totally corrupt and/or conflicted,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“It was started and paid for by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats. Phony Dossier, FISA disgrace and so many lying and dishonest people already fired. 17 Angry Dems? Stay tuned!”
The Gateway Pundit blog cited investigative reporter Paul Sperry’s tweet pointing out that Trump is about to declassify the renewal application the Justice Department and the FBI submitted to a FISA court – signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
Trump also is declassifying the communications of twice-demoted Justice Department official Bruce Ohr with the author of the Democrat-funded, anti-Trump dossier of still unverified Russian propaganda that became the primary evidence submitted to the FISA court to spy on Page.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has been investigating Justice Department handling of the Hillary Clinton and Russia probes as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a Fox News interview Monday that Ohr “is going to become more and more important in this investigation and I think people should pay close attention to it.”
Sperry said in a tweet to look for Trump this month to declassify 20 redacted pages of the June 2017 FISA renewal and possibly 63 pages of emails and notes between Ohr and dossier author Christopher Steele. In addition, the official summaries of 12 FBI interviews with Ohr regarding Steele are expected to be declassified.
Giuliani asserted in an interview Wednesday night with the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that Mueller’s effort to go after President Trump will backfire.
“The reality is, the real story is not that this case isn’t going to fizzle,” he said. “It’s going to blow up on them. The real question is, what we talked about before, there’s a lot more to what they did that nobody knows about yet.”
Giuliani indicated the evidence is pointing to a conspiracy by the Democrats to defeat Trump.
There’s “a lot more to the obstruction of justice, to the collusion, to the fake dossier,” Giuliani said.
Hannity commented, “I know some of it.”
The only collusion in the case, the former New York City mayor said, is the intelligence community using the Steele dossier to obtain “several fraudulent FISA wires.”
“Can it get any worse?” Giuliani asked. “I mean, what do we need to know that this is a totally illegitimate investigation based on a report, a dossier that was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats – probably the biggest illegality so far, the biggest collusion so far. Completely made up.”
Giuliani said he believes “that when this plays out over the next year or two, it’s not going to be about President Trump.”
Citing his sources, Hannity said the truth, when it’s finally revealed, will “shock the heart, the soul, and the mind of any fair-minded American.”